on August 2, 2002
First off, at least some of the hype was true: this is the most overtly Lovecraftian film ever made. It nails HPL's obsessions one after another. You got your fear and loathing of the sea and ocean life, foreigners and religion, miscegenation and sexuality, alien cultures and all things organic, including (ulp) ourselves. It even does a decent job of conveying some of the weird awe Lovecraft could conjure up when dealing with cosmically alien plot elements.
The leading man will likely be seen as a liability by many of the film's viewers, but that is because he is the most Lovecraftian protagonist ever put on screen; he's weak, pale, neurotic and almost completely overwhelmed. The acting is uniformly solid. If you've seen the director's RE-ANIMATOR you have some idea of what Stuart Gordon can do, but where the earlier film is played like some outrageous cartoon, DAGON is played almost completely straight.
I feel the need to mention a couple of caveats. This is a B-movie. Was a time (not long ago) that I wouldn't feel the need to say anything about this, but here in the age of the blockbuster genre film with "seamless special effects" I guess some might feel cheated by anything less than an Industrial Light & Magic fireworks show. This isn't it. The film has atmosphere and suspense to burn, and the make up is excellent, but the CGI effects look just like CGI effects.
Also, although there really isn't that much violence in the film, when it does occur it is pretty hard to take. There is one scene that is as grisly as anything I've seen in a movie, bad enough that I imagine it might make a good number of viewers actually turn it off. Too bad, really. The scene runs the risk of eclipsing the rest of the film and being the only thing people remember about it.
Although much has been made of how the story is not a direct adaptation of any of HPL's works, this is simply not true. DAGON is 'Shadow Over Innsmouth'. Expanded, relocated and updated, but it's 'Innsmouth' in every important detail and plot point. Of course it's more lurid and in-your-face than HPL's stories ever were and makes absolutely explicit what he would merely suggest. But if you can accept that I think you'll find this a pretty gripping film.
I say Check It Out. It's not perfect, but it's an honest attempt to bring HPL's vision to life on screen.
on July 5, 2002
Thick, gray sheets of rain and images half-seen behind battered village shutters and doors, and behind: beauty and horror, alien and old and hysterical.
Dagon is one of my favorite horror films, and I saw it first yesterday. Now in limited release and headed for DVD, the movie is a remarkably creative piece that accomplishes two seemingly at-odds mean cinematic feats: it successfully adapts HP Lovecraft, one of the last century's most unfilmable writers, and it does it with humor that enhances from the horror rather than detracts from it.
It's hard to put good humor in horror-I was always one of the critics who was a little turned off by hamminess of films like Stuart Gordon's Re-animator or the out-and-out camp of farce like Toxic Avenger. But now Gordon himself has come back to his beloved HP Lovecraft with a much more mature style of cinematic humor reminiscent of the sad comedy of Evil Dead II. Example: there's a moment when our hero, Paul (Ezra Godden) tries to steal a car to get away from some strange creatures chasing him. After he manages to sneak into the car, he rips out the wires below the ignition to hotwire the car. This is the first movie I've ever seen that ends this sequence the way it logically should if Paul is anything like me.
The movie opens with a boating accident, as two couples sailing on a boat off Spain hit a sudden storm and wreck on some high rocks. With one of the party injured, the young couple Paul and Barbara take a raft in the storm to the decrepit fishing village they see nearby.
Stuart handles these early moments brilliantly-it's rare to see so clearly that moment when the characters cross a threshold into another world, as the atmosphere suddenly turns foggy and strange and the pair begin to search the deserted village for help. They find a strange, delapidated church, and a priest whose distant eyes would tell you or I not to trust him at all. Gordon plays the shouldn't these guys get the Hell out of this town motif well by keeping us aware that the heroes are trying to help their injured friends. By the time that duty is less compelling, it's too late.
Dagon unfolds the details of its horror at a steady pace, in layers that make you cringe and laugh as the strange, aquatic creatures who inhabit the village appear. The monsters in Dagon are the villagers, who wear human clothing and more and haunt the village in some strange imitation of human life. The best humor of the story comes when we see these creatures trying desperately to act like people. Who are they? People, or their desdendants, whose souls and bodies are in the thrall of something very old.
The village itself is a movie world created from whole cloth, flooded with rain and ominous, and just dripping with literacy of films that have gone before. Watch how Gordon passes along the other-worldly lessons of Argento's Suspiria with the corridors of the hotel Paul stays in, or even calls back to City of the Dead with its use of one of horror cinema's most sublime creepy triggers: barely seen figures in the distance, just in frame. Movies like City of the Dead and Let's Scare Jessica to Death, in fact, seem to have informed Gordon's work here: Dagon rests squarely in the camp of stories about protagonists who fall into other-worlds-right-around-the-corner. But it stays fresh not by keeping tongue in cheek, but by daring to find the hero's situation as funny as it is. Gordon has moved past camp and irony and into black comedy.
Dagon is such an inventive, joyously creative horror film that critics are having a hard time figuring out what to make of it. Most of them have focused on assets and called them liabilities, unwilling to succumb to the film's spell. They don't like accents-much of the explanatory dialogue belongs to the person least equipped to deliver it, Spanish actor Francisco Rabal, whose accent is so thick you can only catch every third word. Personally, I think Gordon did this on purpose: we have to strain to understand the old man, which heightens our sense of panic. Nothing in the movie works the way other horror movies would have them, and that seems to disturb critics. Genre is supposed to be predictable while we leave creativity to art films.
How inventive? So inventive that you'll probably be catching it on DVD instead of in a theater.
But the touches add up: I love that Paul is a hero who behaves more or less like a normal guy-his fighting is clumsy, his panic realistic, and his tenacity inspiring. He sometimes does stupid things that come across as very, very believably stupid.
Playing a key role in the film is Macarena Gomez, whose face alone is a special effect-with a fragile, sharp, wide jaw and huge, liquid eyes, Gomez appears barely mortal, as if she's sidestepped into our dimension. She's a magnificent discovery and the part she plays would crush beneath anyone else.
Dagon closes in on you and gets stranger and stranger, and ends in a place as different from the tranquil sailing vessel and the drizzling village as any place can be: an entry to the realm of HP Lovecraft's Deep Ones. Stuart Gordon's work has matured and given us a classic horror film that fans of the genre simply cannot ignore.
What do you get when you mesh unblinking eyes, priests with webbed fingers and innkeepers with gilled throats, fishermen with a strange affinity for covering their faces, plenty of gold from the depths of the sea to go with the atypical "bounty from the deep," a few faces getting peeled off to teach someone a lesson, a bit of octopi legging to replace those pesky bipedal ones, and one ancient tentacled God? No, it isn't your local barnyard sock-hop taking place at some yokel fairground, its Stuart Gordon's latest creation, the Lovecraft inspired Dagon!
Unlike many of Gordon's earlier, more goofy approaches to the horrific, this Shadows Over Innsmouth/Dagon recount wore a dark overcoat that shrouded almost all of the production. The tale begins with Paul (Ezra Godden) and his girlfriend Barbara, accompanied by two friends, as they toast the success of their new company off the coast of Spain. Paul finds himself plagued by dreams of the foulest sort, ones dealing with an underwater monument bearing a strange insignia and a half-fish/half-humanoid woman, the type that end with him awakening (once again) in a pool of sweat and screams. Soon after our introduction, a storm, if you can call the suddenly conceived, quickly overwhelming beast darkening the sky and tossing their boat around like a bath toy "a storm," impales their boat upon a black reef that any Lovecraft fan will well appreciate. This, in turn, injures one of the boat's occupants and forces them to seek help in a decrepit fishing town called Imboca. As they approach the town in their cheaply construed rubber lifeboat their woes begin, with the sound of gunfire coming from the ship and something brushing against their raft and knocking a hole in it. Is this sign of something to come? Well, in a world where the beasts run rampant in the water, you bet it is. The two quickly find themselves in a town that first seems deserted, a place where the churches read "Esoterica Orde De Dagon" and the occupants, once they are finally found, seem to grow odder and odder by the minute. All these things come together and finally lead them toward secrets that no Bostonian before them ever really wanted to learn, the truth behind the worshippers of Dagon.
Touting nice effects in the monster category, some decent acting (Godden reminding me a lot of Jeffrey Combs, a great thing in my book), pieces of comedy to go with the more horrific, Deep One inspired portions of the movie, and some nice looking DVD quality, this is something to pick up and watch a few time. I highly recommend it for those who've always wanted augmentation by making deals with the oddities of underwater worship or for those simply wanting to stroll the beaches of human suffering as casual passerbys. It'll give you more reasons than the mere shark to stay away from the ocean.
Starting out on a sailing yacht with another couple, on a beautiful day, skinny and whiney Paul (Ezra Godden) and his sexy girlfriend Barbara (Raquel Merono) are relaxing belowdecks while the boat is anchored off a quaint Spanish Village.
Foul weather blows in *very* suddenly in a gorgeously filmed scene, huge dark clouds rising up over the little seaside town. The sailboat is pushed into the rocks where Vicki is pinned belowdecks.
Paul and Barbara must take the dingy to shore to seek help. The town filmed here is very cool; narrow, climbing streets and alleys between tall villas and not a soul to be seen anywhere. Until they find the church, but this is no ordinary church. The symbols inside are unrecognizable, and the priest behaves quite strangely. Fortunately, Barbara speaks Spanish and convinces the priest to help. Paul goes back to sailboat where there is no sign of their friends, and Barbara goes to local hotel to wait, where she is promptly abducted by the hotel clerk and the priest.
Paul checks into the filthy hotel, and things start to get weird when the townsfolk come out to play; and here is where the fun begins.
Eerily determined, they stagger and creep through the streets in search of Paul. Paul runs into an old man named Eziquiel (Francisco Rabal), who tells him a strange tale of the beginnings of the odd little church, and of course Paul believes he is mad.
With Eziquiel's help, Paul searches for Barbara, running into all kinds of trouble. I don't want to give away any of the juicier, more tingly parts of the movie, but suffice to say that my hunger for monsters, grotesqueries, blood, creepiness, and action was sated.
One fine face peeling scene is quite noteworthy and worth the movie in and of itself.
He finds the beautiful woman that he had been seeing in his dreams, Uxia; who embraces him and teaches him the mysteries of Cthullu, whether he wants to hear them or not.
Most of this movie was filmed around Barcelona, Spain, and has some very beautiful scenery shots, along with gorgeous old castle-type buildings and villas...plus some creepy filthy places that remind me of my first apartment.
This is truly a great horror flick, with wonderful monsters and lots of blood, a creepy atmosphere and an ending you won't want to miss. I recommend viewing this tasty, blood coated treat as I did, with your cuddly stuffed Cthullu and Shoggoth, along with Harm the Bunny, at your side. Enjoy!
on September 5, 2002
I enjoy Lovecraft's stories, and the Cthulhu mythos tales especially. One of his creepier tales is "A Shadow Over Innsmouth". It's the story of a town whose people are hybrids of human and an ancient sea dwelling race called the Deep Ones. An outsider comes to the town and is pursued by the shambling, gurgling villagers as he discovers their dark secrets.
The film "Dagon" is based on the Lovecraft story. To cut down on costs, the production is filmed in Spain rather than New England (the location of the Lovecraft stories). This actually works well. The coastal town has a damp, run down feel and the locals speaking another language further alienates the main characters.
A boating accident causes a young couple to have to paddle to a fishing town inhabited by strange, malformed people. As in the Lovecraft story, they soon find trouble. It all culminates with a sinister ceremony to Dagon, one of those dark gods of the sea. It is all well done and pretty effective.
The actors are all pretty much unknowns. The standout is the woman who plays the priestess. She is both creepy and beautiful at the same time. She dominates every scene she is in.
My only complaint is the use of some poor CGI effects. They did so well with so little through the rest of the film, it's a shame they resort to budget CGI that snaps you out of the mood when it appears. Better effects are shown in video game cutscenes.
Overall, this is solid saturday night beer and pretzel viewing. Not fit for the kiddies. There are a couple of pretty gruesome effects. Now if they would just make a movie based on The Call of Cthulhu...
on September 30, 2005
Okay, people, let's face the facts. No movie can live up to the gloriously imaginitive world of HP Lovecraft's writings. So why even compare them? In my opinion, Dagon is a humble salute to Lovecraft, well aware of its limits, that can be thoroughly enjoyable if taken less seriously.
The plot revolves around the characters of Paul and his girlfriend Barbara, who've been ship-wrecked. They find themselves in an eerie old town called Imboca that seems practically deserted. To their great misfortune, however, they discover that the town is well populated -- with half human half fish creatures in search of a sacrifice to their god. As if it weren't bad enough that Barbara becomes potential fish food, Paul's recent nightmares and mysterious past are actually linked to all of the madness and put him square in the middle of Imboca's prophesy. The ending was an unexpected one, and I must say I that it was an excellent one.
Dagon was decently creepy and succeeded in providing a "Night Of The Living Dead" feeling of inescapable horror, but I found it more interesting than scary. Although it's not an exact adaptation of either "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" or "Dagon", it still provided a nice storyline and a strong backing for its plot. Making a film about the legend of Dagon was tempting enough for a rental, but the Imboca characters and the stylish world of their terrifying cult really helped this out. Not to mention the makeup and special effects that, excluding a few bad CGI shots, were quite impressive. Indeed there are some darkly mesmerizing visuals to be appreciated. I, for one, was a bit surprised at the haunting beauty of this film.
Even though it doesn't cling tight to the original stories, I believe HP fans and horror fans alike would enjoy Dagon. It's an almost fairytale-like presentation of a spectacular concept that's pretty hard to ruin. And for those who find it difficult to appreciate the more in-depth parts of a movie, there's plenty of gore (including a scene where a man litterally gets his face pulled off, ew) as well as nudity (the sacrificial scene where Barbara is bouncing around while dangling above the pit -- hubba hubba!). The bottom line is, if you've even thought about renting it, you'll probably enjoy it. Just don't be disappointed because it doesn't completely match up with the stories. I think Dagon delivered just the right amount of originality to avoid criticism for it's differences.
on December 16, 2004
Director Stuart Gordon had a massive challenge: film H.P. Lovecraft's champagne and caviar classic "The Shadow over Innsmouth" on a beer and pretzels budget. With ghosties, ghoulies, long-legged beasties and squid waiting in the wings, what's a cash-strapped director to do?
Simple: Gordon packed up his team and headed off to Spain, where they could make the most of their shoestring budget and capitalize on some genuinely eerie locations. The result is one of the most faithful, ghoulish, hysterical, and genuinely unsettling adaptations of the Master's timeless and merciless mythos, and Gordon delivers the goods, making the most of his haunting Spanish locations, solid actors, and plenty of red sauce, tentacles, Elder Gods, and ghastly-gory goop.
Dot-com gazillionaire-to-be Paul (played to the bespectacled Lovecraftian hero-hilt by Ezra Godden), his pretty Spanish fiancee Barbara (played with conviction by Raquel Merono), his financier Howard (Brendan Price, for about 25 seconds), and Howard's snippy wife Vicki (Birgit Bofurull, who does snippy just as well as she does slack-jawed terror---nice job!) are all on a sailboat off the coast of Southern spain, celebrating riches to come, when a nasty squall rolls in.
Faster than you can shout "Gilligan!" the tiny boat is lost, wrecked on the Old Devil Reef, with Howard's snippy wife not so snippy anymore as her ravaged, trapped leg bleeds into the water. What, pray tell, might her blood attract?
Howard stays on the doomed boat with his wife while Paul and Barbara set off in a raft to get help in the eerily deserted fishing village they spied before the storm hit. They make landfall, meet the village---Imboca ("Innsmouth" in Spanish, get it?)---priest, split up, and the fun begins!
Gordon goes heavy on the atmosphere in "Dagon", to telling effect: this is a movie dedicated to that white, deformed face at the window, to shadowy and batrachian figures shuffling along rain-swept cobbled streets, to inexplicable thudding sounds coming from the room above you in the foul-smelling hotel room at 3 in the morning, to the dank, the wet, the forsaken, the inbred, the bizarre. Barbara's trip to the Hotel Del Mar through the shadow-haunted streets of Imboca gave me the crawls.
Gordon is masterful at taking Lovecraft's raw horror and ratcheting it up a knotch. The scene where a perfectly normal little boy wails over his fallen, leech-mouthed "Papa" gave me the chills; Lovecraft would doubtless shiver and approve.
The acting here is uniformly solid. Some might be put off by Ezra Godden's bespectacled nebbish hero, but true Lovecraft enthusiasts will be delighted with the most iconic Lovecraft protagonist since the Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West in "Re-Animator". Godden blends a fine arsenal of nervous tics and glasses-adjusting nerdiness with panicked courage under fire, and the result is hysterical and totally believable, making "Dagon"'s final revelation even more unnerving.
The fine Spanish veteran actor Francisco Rabal is also great; his soupy accent is a little tough to understand, but make the effort and you'll be rewarded with a superior performance. Rabal's nose is also something of a special effect in itself, nearly as terrifying as anything Imboca has to offer. Macarena Gomez is creepily gorgeous as Uxia, and the dream sequences in which she figures as a mermaid gave me nightmares---and a few pleasant dreams---for a week. Ferran Lahoz (Priest) and Jose Lifante (Hotel Del Mar Desk Clerk) gave me the crawls, and brought a huge dose of creepiness to the movie with their tiny and terrifying parts.
The real standout here aside from the deliciously Lovecraftian atmosphere is the special effects work; Gordon got the most from his limited budget, and it's all up on the screen. The Ultimate Horror of Imboca is never revealed outright until the end, merely hinted at, and the effects underscore that strategy: the effects are repellent and nasty, but subtle. Take a good look at Lahoz's hand or Lifante's head and you'll see what I mean.
There are a few missteps, chiefly some bad CGI that hurt the dramatic effect of one superbly creepy scene (you'll know it when you see it), but not enough to diminish "Dagon's" relentless atmosphere of tentacled ghoulishness. On a technical note, the Lion's Gate release of the film is note-perfect: the colors are beautiful, the transfer is crisp and flawless, and the Dolby sound is a little *too* good (I nearly jumped out of my skin when a froggish hoot erupted from the darkness over my left shoulder).
Dark, richly atmospheric, and genuinely unsettling, "Dagon" is one of the most faithful Lovecraft adaptations ever set to celluloid and a deleriously unnerving little horror film.
on April 21, 2007
My recent review of Carnival of Lost Souls got me in a Lovecraftian mood & so I watched DAGON again (for about the 4th time.) I do believe DAGON qualifies as a genuine cult movie--it's wonderful. Despite the fact that it has all the hallmarks of your classic B foreign film, the movie has a life of its own. I think it reflects Lovecraft imagery with uncanny authenticity. The actress who plays an oddly appealing anti-heroine gothic horror is a lot of fun to watch. DAGON will keep you rivited, or at least very interested. The only reason I didn't give it an extra star is that the effects are definitly "B" caliber, but that didn't affect my viewing pleasure in the least. In fact, I kinda liked it that way.
Carnival Of Lost Souls
on April 18, 2006
Well, it's not that scary, but it has it's moments. The bit where the hero is in the Imboca hotel room and the hybrids are coming to get him while he's fixing the door is straight out of Lovecraft. The movie's extremely well done, the only thing I might say (other reviewers on here have said it) negatively is that there is one scene that's graphic to the point of nastiness, which I think does Lovecraft's tale an injustice. A great B-Movie in it's own right, and faithful to the spirit of Lovecraft's story if any movie ever was. Keep up the good work Mr. Gordon. Let's hope that the Mountains of Madness comes out as nice.
on December 28, 2006
No its not a state of the arts...special effects type of movie...but more
like a good book...it delivers.
Interesting script and creepy villagers is a good mix and this is not a
place you would like to get stuck in ....not even visit.
I was able to watch this movie in one session... and its worth it.